Sunday, October 18, 2009

Art, Woes, and the Reality of Philosophy

I won a contest!

Ok, so I didn't technically win. But I feel pretty badass about the outcome: yesterday in the mail I received a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube. With the doodle decorated art tube came a Sir Real postcard:

101509
Dear Ginger! Hi! I was inspired by the description of your school which sounds like a great place. I hope you're now inspired to set up a real pop art show in your school! Let me know how it goes! Thanks, for contacting me -
Best,
Michael Albert
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few weeks ago my lovely New York friend, Annie - supermom and intellectual extraordinaire - sent me a link to Mr. Albert who is known to send free stuff to teachers and librarians. I contacted him on a whim. Why not? He asked me to tell him about our school. I did, focusing primarily on the really good aspects: the International Baccalaureate Program, the Literary Magazine, and our school traditions. After I finished the email, I felt pretty good about my school. I forgot all about the nonsense that makes it impossible for me to really teach the way I want to. I allowed myself to sit in tranquility for a few seconds, in a space devoid of all of the meaningless paperwork, the overloaded classes (which, by the way, have left me no time for writing), the apathy, the bureaucracy, the disrespect ... and instantly my back is in knots and my stomach is queasy.

But in those seconds, I felt like my job and my being had value.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Michael Albert emailed me to say that the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube was on the way.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elation! I told the ladies on my hall. We started planning where we'd hang the exhibit. We carefully considered the fact that some students would rip down the posters or deface them. We decided to hang them out of reach, pending the size of the posters.

I told my principal and showed her the letter. She's a math person, and responded with, "Hey, I like free stuff," and then asked where I'd like to showcase the exhibit.

I told an art teacher, Mr. Willingham, who spent 20 minutes stuttering over the impossibility/coolness of the idea on the artist's part. He also began thinking of exhibit ideas.

And then..

I told the head of my department.

Here's the moment where I hit my head against the wall, and ask myself "why?" - Why and for what purpose did I tell her? Was it for a pat on the back? Was I being informative so that she wouldn't ask questions when a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube showed up in the hallway outside of her room? Was I trying to show her that even though I'm a known rebel in the building with all of my "treat us like we matter," rhetoric and my "I don't want to be fingerprinted like a criminal" campaign - that I still like aspects of my school, enough that I wrote to an artist and he's inspired by us?

Why did I do it?

Her response was this:
I don't see how that's relevant.

My rebuttal:
Um.. Well.. Have you been to my room? Look at the art there. Art shows the human condition as well as any literary piece which is what we're trying to. .

She cut in:
But what are you going to do with it?

Me:
Wha.. um. Nothing, I guess. Display it for the kids..

Again with the cutting in:
I don't see what it has to do with what we're doing. I mean how are you going to have time to have an art show with everything else we do? Give it to the art teachers or something. It's not relevant here.

Dismissed.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
So, I received the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube yesterday. It came with a postcard and a sting. But it also came with the realization that my teaching philosophy is better suited for a different school - one that understands that teaching isn't solely about mechanics and greasing cogs or about money and whistle blowing. It's about something else - character building, for example, and exposing kids to things they don't see everyday thus providing them with opportunities to be more aware of themselves and others. And then there's something even more sacred in my philosophy, something ancient and pure. Education is the young, eager spirit married to experienced, universal wisdom. Their union creates a well rounded person, one who is more prone to understanding and less prone to violence (both in words and in action).

I know, more than ever, that it's time to move on.

9 comments:

Pete the Brit said...

Some people need to have a wider definition of what it means to 'teach'.

Ginger you rock!!!! I hope one day you find a place that calls forth all your incredible wonderfulness and blesses it :)

Jen said...

It's so sad when teachers forget that learning can be fun and there are other ways to learn than through the basics! I agree with Pete and hope that you find a place where your philosophy is welcomed so you can ROCK all you have to offer!!

Students need teachers like you!! Don't forget that!!

Tammy Howard said...

Sigh.

I taught for years. I was a teacher educator for years after that.

The time came for me to move on, too. I still don't know where I'm going, but incidents very similar to the one you describe convinced me that I couldn't stay where I was.

Good luck.

(If you think of a great project for talented educators who like to think outside the box, consider counting me in!)

Pam said...

Receiving a Pop Art Tube - Awesome

Dept. Head's reaction - Maddening

Revelation to move on - Priceless

Mimi said...

*BIG Homer Simpson D'OH!*

The irony in all this is that when I went to the staff development for new English teachers in the district last year, your dept head bragged about how she didn't even have a degree in English but what?...art!?...*cough*

Yeahhh, she missed the point. That thinking is why we get mindless students who can't think outside of the box and who can't even recognize the box if it caved in all around them (at which point they come to my school). I agree with Pete and Jen: you do SOOOO ROCK!! I really hope you find somewhere or, even better, make a place that needs to exist...

Good luck in your journey...let us know how it goes...:) *big hug*

rich said...

Getting the prints is kick ass, regardless of d. head’s (sad, but not surprising) reaction. We are here to inspire and engage the students. It’s the only thing that is relevant. Otherwise we are just creating mindless drones – teaching them skills that can be done more cheaply and efficiently by machine.

And the prints are sweet! Dibs on pi… and the heart… and the Psalm.

msprimadonna67 said...

I'm appalled by your dept. head's reaction. How is art NOT relevant to what we do as teachers?

Helen McGinn said...

What a sad remark to such a wonderful idea. I too would be stung. It sounds though as if the rest of the teachers got it; that at least is good.

annie said...

please know that this happens everywhere and if you don't learn to face it here, it will come back on you like the worst cosmic case of Freudian acid reflux you've ever had. Just this week John had an amazing breakthrough with contaminated water samples in Banladeshi soils, but when he presented it his PI basically said your jerk's answer, why is this relevant? Everyone in the room (and beyond, it was telecast) knew it was relevant, but she was being dethroned and it hurt, this was her way of communicating that pain. On one hand, as John's partner, I wanted to do something violent to her, but on the other hand, I tried to remember that someday it will hurt to be dethroned and I'll feel compassion for her. I told this to John and he reached into the future like only he can do and responded compassionately. Miraculously, she gave him a kind compliment on his research at their next meeting. I'm not saying your jerk is capable of such a transformation, but know that direct communication underlies deep seeded feelings that are more true than even that beautiful art that traveled to you in a tube. You, like it, are awesome.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Art, Woes, and the Reality of Philosophy

I won a contest!

Ok, so I didn't technically win. But I feel pretty badass about the outcome: yesterday in the mail I received a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube. With the doodle decorated art tube came a Sir Real postcard:

101509
Dear Ginger! Hi! I was inspired by the description of your school which sounds like a great place. I hope you're now inspired to set up a real pop art show in your school! Let me know how it goes! Thanks, for contacting me -
Best,
Michael Albert
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few weeks ago my lovely New York friend, Annie - supermom and intellectual extraordinaire - sent me a link to Mr. Albert who is known to send free stuff to teachers and librarians. I contacted him on a whim. Why not? He asked me to tell him about our school. I did, focusing primarily on the really good aspects: the International Baccalaureate Program, the Literary Magazine, and our school traditions. After I finished the email, I felt pretty good about my school. I forgot all about the nonsense that makes it impossible for me to really teach the way I want to. I allowed myself to sit in tranquility for a few seconds, in a space devoid of all of the meaningless paperwork, the overloaded classes (which, by the way, have left me no time for writing), the apathy, the bureaucracy, the disrespect ... and instantly my back is in knots and my stomach is queasy.

But in those seconds, I felt like my job and my being had value.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Michael Albert emailed me to say that the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube was on the way.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elation! I told the ladies on my hall. We started planning where we'd hang the exhibit. We carefully considered the fact that some students would rip down the posters or deface them. We decided to hang them out of reach, pending the size of the posters.

I told my principal and showed her the letter. She's a math person, and responded with, "Hey, I like free stuff," and then asked where I'd like to showcase the exhibit.

I told an art teacher, Mr. Willingham, who spent 20 minutes stuttering over the impossibility/coolness of the idea on the artist's part. He also began thinking of exhibit ideas.

And then..

I told the head of my department.

Here's the moment where I hit my head against the wall, and ask myself "why?" - Why and for what purpose did I tell her? Was it for a pat on the back? Was I being informative so that she wouldn't ask questions when a Pop Art Gallery in a Tube showed up in the hallway outside of her room? Was I trying to show her that even though I'm a known rebel in the building with all of my "treat us like we matter," rhetoric and my "I don't want to be fingerprinted like a criminal" campaign - that I still like aspects of my school, enough that I wrote to an artist and he's inspired by us?

Why did I do it?

Her response was this:
I don't see how that's relevant.

My rebuttal:
Um.. Well.. Have you been to my room? Look at the art there. Art shows the human condition as well as any literary piece which is what we're trying to. .

She cut in:
But what are you going to do with it?

Me:
Wha.. um. Nothing, I guess. Display it for the kids..

Again with the cutting in:
I don't see what it has to do with what we're doing. I mean how are you going to have time to have an art show with everything else we do? Give it to the art teachers or something. It's not relevant here.

Dismissed.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
So, I received the Pop Art Gallery in a Tube yesterday. It came with a postcard and a sting. But it also came with the realization that my teaching philosophy is better suited for a different school - one that understands that teaching isn't solely about mechanics and greasing cogs or about money and whistle blowing. It's about something else - character building, for example, and exposing kids to things they don't see everyday thus providing them with opportunities to be more aware of themselves and others. And then there's something even more sacred in my philosophy, something ancient and pure. Education is the young, eager spirit married to experienced, universal wisdom. Their union creates a well rounded person, one who is more prone to understanding and less prone to violence (both in words and in action).

I know, more than ever, that it's time to move on.

9 comments:

Pete the Brit said...

Some people need to have a wider definition of what it means to 'teach'.

Ginger you rock!!!! I hope one day you find a place that calls forth all your incredible wonderfulness and blesses it :)

Jen said...

It's so sad when teachers forget that learning can be fun and there are other ways to learn than through the basics! I agree with Pete and hope that you find a place where your philosophy is welcomed so you can ROCK all you have to offer!!

Students need teachers like you!! Don't forget that!!

Tammy Howard said...

Sigh.

I taught for years. I was a teacher educator for years after that.

The time came for me to move on, too. I still don't know where I'm going, but incidents very similar to the one you describe convinced me that I couldn't stay where I was.

Good luck.

(If you think of a great project for talented educators who like to think outside the box, consider counting me in!)

Pam said...

Receiving a Pop Art Tube - Awesome

Dept. Head's reaction - Maddening

Revelation to move on - Priceless

Mimi said...

*BIG Homer Simpson D'OH!*

The irony in all this is that when I went to the staff development for new English teachers in the district last year, your dept head bragged about how she didn't even have a degree in English but what?...art!?...*cough*

Yeahhh, she missed the point. That thinking is why we get mindless students who can't think outside of the box and who can't even recognize the box if it caved in all around them (at which point they come to my school). I agree with Pete and Jen: you do SOOOO ROCK!! I really hope you find somewhere or, even better, make a place that needs to exist...

Good luck in your journey...let us know how it goes...:) *big hug*

rich said...

Getting the prints is kick ass, regardless of d. head’s (sad, but not surprising) reaction. We are here to inspire and engage the students. It’s the only thing that is relevant. Otherwise we are just creating mindless drones – teaching them skills that can be done more cheaply and efficiently by machine.

And the prints are sweet! Dibs on pi… and the heart… and the Psalm.

msprimadonna67 said...

I'm appalled by your dept. head's reaction. How is art NOT relevant to what we do as teachers?

Helen McGinn said...

What a sad remark to such a wonderful idea. I too would be stung. It sounds though as if the rest of the teachers got it; that at least is good.

annie said...

please know that this happens everywhere and if you don't learn to face it here, it will come back on you like the worst cosmic case of Freudian acid reflux you've ever had. Just this week John had an amazing breakthrough with contaminated water samples in Banladeshi soils, but when he presented it his PI basically said your jerk's answer, why is this relevant? Everyone in the room (and beyond, it was telecast) knew it was relevant, but she was being dethroned and it hurt, this was her way of communicating that pain. On one hand, as John's partner, I wanted to do something violent to her, but on the other hand, I tried to remember that someday it will hurt to be dethroned and I'll feel compassion for her. I told this to John and he reached into the future like only he can do and responded compassionately. Miraculously, she gave him a kind compliment on his research at their next meeting. I'm not saying your jerk is capable of such a transformation, but know that direct communication underlies deep seeded feelings that are more true than even that beautiful art that traveled to you in a tube. You, like it, are awesome.